« PreviousContinue »
which, had the author thought proper, might have made a separate sentence.
The following sentences are open to the same sort of exception :
“ He (Archbishop Tillotson) was exceedingly beloved both by King William and Queen Mary, who nominated Dr. Tennison, Bishop of Lincoln, to succeed him."
“ After we came to anchor, they put me on shore, where I was welcomed by all my friends, who received me with the greatest kindness.”
“ Their march was through an uncultivated country, whose savage inhabitants fared hardly, having no other riches than a breed of lean sheep, whose flesh was rank and unsavoury, by reason of their continual feeding upon sea-fish."
“ He is supposed to have fallen, by his father's death, into the hands of his uncle, a vintner, near Charing Cross, who sent him for some time to Dr. Busby, at Westminster; but, not intending to give him any education beyond that of the school, took him, when he was well advanced in literature, to his own house, where the Earl of Dorset, celebrated for patronage of genius, found him by chance, as Burnet relates, reading Horace, and was so well pleased with his proficiency, that he undertook the care and cost of his education."
This one sentence conducts us through a considerable portion of the life of the poet Prior. We are informed of — 1. The loss of his father. 2. His adoption by his uncle. 3. His being sent to Westminster School. 4. His progress in learning. 5. His leaving school. 6. His introduction to the Earl of Dorset.
7. His reading Horace; and 8. His being maintained at the university by the Earl of Dorset.
“ To this succeeded that licentiousness which entered with the Restoration ; and from infecting our religion and morals, fell to corrupt our language ; which last was not like to be much improved by those who, at that time, made up the Court of King Charles II.: either such who had followed him in his banishment, or who had been altogether conversant in the dialect of those fanatic times; or young men who had been educated in the same company ; so that the Court, which used to be the standard of propriety and correctness of speech, was then, and I think hath ever since continued, the worst school in England for that accomplishment; and so will remain till better care be taken in the education of our young nobility, that they may set out into the world with some foundation of literature, in order to qualify them for patterns of politeness.”
It is impossible for any one to digest so many facts, observations, and reasonings as are here presented to the mind in one sentence.
The subjoined sentence is extracted from a work published in London this year (1857):
“ Unfortunately, coming into the possession of the estate, my father must turn farmer, and, like him I have before compared him to, and I have often thought, since reading the works of Cobbett, that there was a similarity in their thoughts on many subjects, he soon began to farm at a fearful loss (for to be a gainful farmer, so farmers hold, or rather they did then, a man should properly be trained to it from his youth); he was forced to trust to others to do what he should himself have done, and being still occupied in his professional pursuits at Norwich, his visits to the hall and to the estate were but occasional, and the eye
of the master was but too often absent. His family, however, resided there, consisting of his wife and four children — Charles, Henry, Harriet, and Alfred - and there his affections were centred, so that it cannot be wondered at that, with a divided duty, and the course pursued, ere many years (but I am now forestalling) the estate soon became involved, and actually he was compelled to part with it at a loss, or rather with no gain; for, at the time of the sale, which happened at a period during the long war, land fell of a sudden greatly in value, and the seller was glad to experience the truth of the old saying, –
· When house and land and all are spent,
This sentence needs no comment.
2. Abstract and concrete ideas should never be forced together in the same grammatical government ;
“On every side, they rose in multitudes, armed with rustic weapons and with irresistible fury."
But when the writer wishes to put things in a ridiculous light, this is done with great effect ; as :
“ He took his hat and leave.” “ He was delivered from the ditch and all his fears." "He is surely much happier in this noble condescension .... than if he kept himself aloof from his subjects, continually wrapped up in his own importance and imperial
In speaking of the general structure of sentences, we had occasion to remark that, as a rule, long parentheses should be avoided. They interfere both with the unity and the beauty of a sentence. They keep the reader too long in suspense about the definite meaning, and break the flow and easy movement of the writing. These objections are felt to be so well founded, that a parenthetical style is now out of fashion, though occasionally affected by some of our most eminent living authors. The following extracts will serve to illustrate the disagreeable effect of parentheses :
“It was an ancient tra n, that when the capital was founded by one of the Roman kings, the god Terminus (who presided over boundaries, and was represented, according to the fashion of that age, by a large stone,) alone, among all the inferior deities, refused to yield his place to Jupiter himself.”
“When this parliament sat down (for it deserves our particular observation that both houses were full of zeal for the present government, and of resentment against the late usurpations), there was but one party in parliament, and no other party could raise its head in the nation.”
“Though Fame, who is always the herald of the great, has seldom deigned to transmit the exploits of the lower ranks to posterity (for it is commonly the fate of those whom fortune has placed in the vale of obscurity, to have their noble acts buried in oblivion), yet, in their verses, the minstrels have preserved many instances of domestic woe and felicity.”
Such forms as, 'if I may be allowed the word, - if I may hazard the remark,' 'if I may so press myself,' &c., are open to the same objection as longer parentheses; and even shorter insertions, such as, “in some sense,' as it were,' so to speak,' &c., should be introduced very sparingly, and not too frequently. The following sentence of Fielding's is exceptionable in this particular :
“ The most astounding instance of respect, so frequently paid to Nothing, is when it is paid (if I may so express myself) to something less than Nothing, when the person who receives it is not only void of the qualities for which he is respected, but is in reality notoriously guilty of vices directly opposite to the virtues whose applause he receives. This, indeed, is the highest degree of Nothing, or (if I may be allowed the word), the Nothingest of all Nothings.”
3. When a sentence arrives at its natural close, nothing more should be added. We frequently find, when we come to what seems the proper conclusion of a sentence, that some extraneous remark, not quite to the purpose, or not in keeping with the main thought, is appended. Such an addition directly tends to spoil the effect by interfering with the compactness and unity of a period. For example, Sir William Temple, speaking of Burnet and Fontenelle,
66 The first could not end his learned treatise without a panegyric of modern learning and knowledge in comparison of the ancients; and the other falls so grossly into the censure of the old poetry, and preference of the new, that I could not read either of these